Seattle was busy rebuilding after the Great Fire of 1889, and logs piled up on their way to the city’s mills.
SURELY THE SUBJECTS here are the logs, although their likely destination, the Western Mill at the south end of Lake Union, also is visible. A water tower, two stacks and a few long factory sheds are bunched there. Scattered about to all sides are the mill workers’ generally small homes in the community started in 1882 by David Denny and his partners.
The silhouette of the hotel named for his brother Arthur Denny (last week’s feature) rises on the horizon far right, where it is considerably dimmed by the industrial haze contributed by a city rebuilding after its Great Fire of June 6, 1889. The greatest teeming of timber for remaking the city: these logs temporarily parked below Queen Anne Hill.
This print is part of a small collection contributed a few years back to the Museum of History & Industry. The selection is distinguished by panoramas and other subjects wide enough to reveal a variety of landmarks. The 15 prints of this collection also expose the elaborate changes in the cityscape that quickly followed the fire. The economic crash of 1893 slowed the growth, but beginning in 1897, inhibitions were effectively scattered by the Yukon Gold Rush.
The year here is most likely 1890 or 1891. By photo-historian Ron Edge’s studied speculation, the photographer might have been John P. Soule. One of the small collection’s three-part panoramas of the Seattle waterfront was taken from the King Street wharf, which, with its coal bunkers, was then one of the largest structures in Seattle. Edge identified the same pan from the same spot recorded with only a few changes among the vessels. It was, it seems, also recorded on the same day and this time signed by Soule, who is best known for his many photographs of the ruins left by the Great Fire.
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My first hunch for the photographer was Frank LaRoche, another skilled local with a proven lens and a penchant for recording panoramas. In 1890, LaRoche was hired by a tireless young developer named Luther Griffith to assemble an album of prints showing off his 2-mile-long trestle to Fremont. Not by coincidence, Fremont was the name of the Kansas township where Griffith was born. The LaRoche album also features a few new landmarks, like the rebuilt central waterfront and Arthur Denny’s hotel on the hill.
The trestle to Fremont was built wide enough to handle promenading pedestrians; wagons; and, most important, electric trolleys. After they began running here in the fall of 1890, the trolleys pretty much put a stop to the “mosquito fleet” of small steamers that had delivered settlers and their goods to the growing neighborhoods on the north shore of the lake. These included, west to east, Fremont, Ross, Edgewater, Latona (not yet Wallingford), Brooklyn (not yet the University District), Ravenna and Yesler.
The northeast corner of Lake Union — and so Portage Bay as well — got its own trolley service along the east side of Lake Union in 1891. Some of this east-side line was built on piles, and some on land. Railroad ties were easier to lay beside the kinder grades of the future Eastlake and Fairview avenues.